Council Watch: Velocipedes on Tramway
 Alibi V.20 No.12 • March 24-30, 2011 

Council Watch

Velocipedes on Tramway

Albuquerque got a little more bicycle-friendly after the City Council approved a measure to allow bikes on Tramway and other limited-access roads. Councilors removed a prohibition that kept bicyclists off a few roads at the Monday, March 21 meeting. Councilor Trudy Jones said she received hundreds of comments from bicyclists asking to be allowed to ride legally. Police Chief Ray Schultz said his officers would sometimes give warnings to those riding on Tramway and said he is in support of this change.

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Squeezing PNM

Councilors Brad Winter and Rey Garduño sought to send a message to the Public Regulation Commission: Deny the electric company’s rate increase request. Councilor Winter said PNM originally asked for 21 percent increase, then dropped it to 10.8 percent after negotiations with consumer advocates and big industrial users. Still, Winter recommends 0 percent. The memorial passed unanimously.
Winter said PNM has received rate increases over the last three years that total 44.5 percent. He pointed out that the entire state is struggling with a high unemployment rate and cutbacks, and any increase could be a hardship on ratepayers. The attorney general is charged with protecting ratepayers in these negotiations, he added, and maybe the city should look into getting its own advocate. Winter's memorial also asks the PRC to encourage participation in the process for all ratepayers—not just big industrial users. Many a month we have all cursed the electric company for swallowing chunks of our budgets. We are all ultra dependent on power and cannot live in the style we have become accustomed to without juice. But PNM only allows negotiations on rates by big, collective users. Winter is correct: Ratepayers should have a more active role in negotiating increases.
Red-Light Cams in the Red

City Councilors were asked to approve yet another contract extension for Redflex, the city’s red-light camera operators. The city asked for bids to see if there were any other companies that offered the service for a better deal. There were not any bidders. The camera program has been losing money for the last year or so; Albuquerque has to share profits with the state. Intersection safety studies have produced conflicting information about the efficacy of the cameras. A University of New Mexico study released in October showed that at intersections with red-light cameras, rear-end accidents increase, while more serious T-bone accidents drop. The two-month extension passed, with Councilors Michael Cook and Dan Lewis opposing.
Redflex opponent Dan Lewis pointed out that the program costs the city more than $100,000 a month minimum to operate because red-light runners are not paying their tickets. Public Safety Director Darren White said negotiations were underway with Redflex to find a way to make the program pay for itself. He said the cash being used to subsidize the program is not tax money but about $700,000 that was set aside from fines before the state’s profit-sharing law went into effect. The city has been going around with this red-light camera issue for years. With about 150,000 tickets left unpaid, it is clear the citizens do not like this program. It's been a bomb from the get-go. Why are we keeping it if it is losing money every month? There are only 14 red-light camera locations, so why not replace the cameras with live cops? This way, the money stays local and red-light runners end up in front of a real judge—not a hearing officer—if they don’t pay their tickets.